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Salt Lake’s Avenues neighborhood is split on UTA’s revised bus routes

UTA Bus Stop & Bus in the Avenues, Salt Lake City, June 2, 2022
Ivana Martinez
/
KUER
The Avenues neighborhood in Salt Lake City will see some changes to its bus service in August.

As part of its annual August service changes, the Utah Transit Authority will adjust and expand bus routes in and around the Avenues neighborhood on the east side of Salt Lake City.

Some residents are worried about the potential impacts and presented their concerns at a Wednesday community council meeting and in a recent letter to The Salt Lake Tribune. At the top of the list, they wrote, is the fear that more buses would make their neighborhood less safe.

Alessandro Rigolon, a city planning professor at the University of Utah, said if anything, research shows buses make streets safer.

“The reason is pretty clear,” Rigolon said. “Bus drivers are trained. It's their job. They're not likely to be on their phone, unlike many current people that if you drive around Salt Lake you're probably going to see that.”

The residents also claimed that so few people rely on public transit in the area, the expanded service hours and 15-minute frequency — meaning more buses, more often — were unnecessary.

Nichol Bourdeaux, UTA’s chief planning and engagement officer, said their market analysis shows an unmet need for transit in the neighborhood.

And there’s one big way to meet it.

“More frequent transit,” Bourdeaux said. “If it's accessible, people will use it. If you have to wait an hour, they won't.”

The letter writers said they felt left out of the conversation for something they believe directly impacts their quality of life. UTA said it followed the same public input process throughout its entire service area for the upcoming changes.

In a statement to KUER, two of the Tribune letter writers, Carol Fudyma and Teresa Musci, said they still believe one of the route changes will impact safety in their neighborhood. They would like UTA to work with them on an alternative.

“Our position is to use safer streets for bus traffic,” Fudyma and Musci said. “We support UTA's objective to increase ridership. We would like feedback from UTA about ridership numbers after the implementation of these changes to see if ridership objectives are met.”

For now, Bourdeaux said UTA will be moving forward as planned.

There is at least one Avenues resident who is excited about the new routes and schedules.

“That sounds great to me,” said Jacob Klopfenstein, an avid bus rider.

He’s encouraging his neighbors to embrace the change.

“The bus routes reflect the changing needs of transit riders and people in the Avenues,” he said. “I think what people who are resistant to these bus routes up here are ignoring is that they’ll enhance the quality of the Avenues neighborhood.”

Bourdeaux said the new routes will connect the Avenues to other parts of the Salt Lake Valley.

Updated: June 3, 2022 at 10:32 AM MDT
This story has been updated to include a statement from representatives of the Avenues residents opposed to UTA's changes.
Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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